Saturday, July 7, 2007

Unfriendly people bug me

I’m always amazed at morning people. I’m not sure why maybe it’s because they are out there in the morning at the same time I am. I’m talking about those people I run past, of course. I do a quick analysis of why they are out there and put it into a one or two word classification plus a thumbs up/ thumbs down rating. Such as: Walker friendly thumbs up.

My work took me to Kelowna, BC for a day. I drove out the night before and slept over for what was supposed to be a morning delivery. I woke up and went for my morning run. Now Kelowna is more populated than where I live, on today’s run I must have come across 40 people. My interactions were as follows:

Dog walker – I said ‘Good Morning’. She said nothing even though I made friendly eye contact she looked away.

Cardio Boot camp class running in the opposite direction – I said ‘Good Morning’ to about 20 of them. Only one of them reciprocated.

A second Boot camp class- Same routine only none of them said anything, made eye contact, or even smiled. Waddup!

Two guys walking their dog – ‘Good Morning!’ they were startled and yelled ‘Jogger!’ as if to say ‘Incoming! Look out’. (The jogger comment I’ll let pass) Still I’m at 1 for 40 in reciprocated salutations.

My analysis: this town is not that friendly. This bugs me!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Risk Assessment

What are the medical risks involved in running an ultramarathon? Recently I've pondered this only because my wife planted the thought in my head. There are the obvious things, blisters, dehydration, twisted and torn ligaments and I'm prepared for all that. We train so that we know these things before race day.

But what about the less obvious. In our own sport recreational runners die from heart attacks every year either on the course or shortly after. The onus is ours to get congenital heart defects and genetic predispositions checked out prior to endurance events but there is still always risk.

Jim Fixx , the person touted responsible for the modern day running boom died while running a victim of a genetic predisposition to heart problems. The story goes that all the signs were there but he chose to ignore them.

But if you have no family history or even a slight history such as one parent or one grand parent out of four do you bother?

I, myself have been dogged by a higher than normal amylase count (~120ppm). The flag is 100 and I am consistently in the range of 110 to 125. My doctor sent me for every test in the book, including sending me to a gastroenterologist. Now amylase is a liver enzyme, so the knee jerk reaction was alcoholism. Of course I drink on occasion. So for a brief time I cut out alcohol out of my life and got re-tested. No change. Let it be known that my doctor was not greatly concerned as he has seen amylase results in the thousands. Widen the scope a bit and re-test. I was tested for every liver enzyme and the only one that was consistently high was Amylase. What I did learn was some other markers in the blood are directly related to how hard I have run the previous couple of days.

AST – goes up after a hard runs but goes down after a week of not running.
CPK (creatine phosphokinase)–goes up after long runs but goes down after a week of not running. It's an enzyme found in muscles and the heart and is a sign of muscle damage from exercise but more commonly in heart attacks.
(Okay, it wasn’t a week it was 5 days I’ll only go so far in the name of medical science)

Now my wife is one of those people who will look into WebMD and other web based medical reference websites. I love my wife with a passion but she is no medical professional. Whatever these sites say is the primary cause of the elevated levels she immediately associates with my case. That being said, I was and am still in her eyes an alcoholic runner with congenital heart problems. Without a medical background myself I must take the wife-doctor’s warning every time I crack a cold one. I’ve just about given up telling her when I’ve had a blood test because the results never change and I’ve just about given up going for the same old tests. The worst are the urine collection tests. I tell myself if I was a gold medal winning athlete I’d have to pee in a jug too, so I grin and bear it.

So I had the last test a week ago I suppose I should go see my doctor for the results. If nothing changes I’m using this as ammunition for a clean bill of health. Wish me luck!

How far can your dog go ?

How do you know a dog has reached his limit on long runs? There isn’t a lot written on how far dogs can run. With the exception of the malamutes and Siberian Huskies doing the Iditarod the amount of published research on running with dogs is lacking. I am specifically referring to how far Golden Retrievers can run. I run about 25 to 30 miles a week currently with more than half of that mileage going into the long run. But that number is going to go up. The longest run Koda has ever been on is 16 miles. He was panting pretty hard at the end and was tired most of the day but he rebounded quite well for the next day. Much like me!

I’m quite leery about taking him further especially as the summer progresses. What limited literature I have found in running magazines say to given them frequent water breaks when the weather gets hot. The problem is he doesn’t drink. It’s not that I’m torturing him and not offering water I use to take one of those collapsible dog dishes and his own flask of water. I’d fill it up mid run and stand around and wait and wait and wait some more. Minutes would pass and he wouldn’t drink so I gave up.

If I stop now it is so he can swim. Koda loves the water. Depending on the depth he’ll either lie down frog-like or go for a swim. After a minute he’ll take about two sips (laps) or water and that is it. But I guess immersing himself in water brings down his core temperature because he is panting less when he gets out.

Even when I get home from a long run, he doesn’t head for the water dish until 5 or 10 minutes after we are back. I’m guessing he has to let his core cool down before he drinks. And when we get home he much prefers the cold tile floor to the cold outdoors every time.

He’s not complaining and he’s not faltering but I’m starting to feel guilty. It’s either he knows pace better then I do but he tops out at 7:55 minutes/mile with no exceptions on long runs. Whenever I feel like I’m dragging him m Garmin says I’m going faster than 7:55 so I slow down.

Off the leash he’s better. He’ll probably do 10% more mileage than me because he’ll run ahead and run back. And then run a tangent and run back. He is much happier that way.

So I’ll keep running with him on my long runs until one of us gives in. I think it might be me..


Nowhere does it tell you how to get your family to support you. Running is your thing and your family knows it. Every Christmas, Birthday, and Fathers Day gift is centered around running. Your bookshelf is littered with running books. This is your passion. So getting support to do your first ultra should be automatic right? Guess again!

What do you do when you decide to do your first ultra and you ask your wife and she says 'No'. I mean this is it. You've planned it all out in your head and researched the web: how to schedule the training, the routes to train on, the build up, the taper. It is set in your mind. The story is written all you need to do is play it out.

'Honey I really want to run a longer race this fall.'

"How long?", she asks.

'Fifty miles'.

"How far is that in kilometres?" (We're metric here in Canada)

"About 75 !" (Yeah, it's actually 80 but 75 sounded less daunting)

"No way"

Crash! That was the sound of my dream going down in flames. She then went on to steam roll the big cinders of my ego into an ash heap. She rolled with, 'I've seen what you look like after a marathon' or 'what about your health'. 'I'm sure our insurance doesn't cover this? And if you die where does that leave me and the kids.' My wife should have been a risk assessment analyst.

I had no rebuttle. First I didn't expect a heart warming 'yeah, I'm behind you all the way'. (Remember, I'm the guy who gets up at 5 am on weekends if I want to run long.) Second, I have never looked into the mirror immediately following any of my marathons but I imagine I wasn't fresh looking but I'm sure even the fittest of runners don't look fresh after 26.2 miles, nor should they. And finally, no I don't know if insurance covers a self induced limit pushing endurance run but people do this. I want to do this.

At this point I wait. My wife's immediate reaction to any idea that is not her's is to reject first ask questions later. So far it has been three days since the fire, the scars still haven't healed. But since that time she has mentioned my dream to my mother on our last visit and on one other occasion. So it's not a dead issue. Like a Phoenix this dream will be resurrected from the ashes. I've got three months before the race.